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Pale Blue Dot July 15, 2013

Posted by nrhatch in Books & Movies, Mindfulness, Nature.

In 1990, NASA captured this image of Earth from the Voyager 1 spacecraft as it wandered around the stars, 4 billion miles away.

In it, our planet is represented by 0.12 of a pixel:

Writing about this pale blue dot we call home, Carl Sagan asked us to reflect on the perspective that the image affords:

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

From Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space (1994).

Carl Sagan, a Professor of Astronomy and Space Sciences and Director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University, played a leading role in the Mariner, Viking, and Voyager spacecraft expeditions.

He received the NASA medals for Exceptional Scientific Achievement, the Pulitzer Prize, and the highest awards of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Foundation, for his contributions to science, literature, education, and the preservation of the environment.

His book Cosmos (accompanying his award-winning television series of the same name) was the bestselling science book ever published in the English language.

His bestselling novel, Contact, was turned into a major motion picture.

And Dr. Sagan, like each of us, is just one tiny facet of a pale blue dot in the whole of the Cosmos.

We are an infinitesimal part of it all.

Puts things into perspective, doesn’t it?

Aah . . . that’s better!

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1. ericjbaker - July 15, 2013

I so loved Cosmos when i was kid that I bought the Vangelis album from which they took the music. I hope I am able to match Sagan’s eloquence when I say: Carl was the mad bomb yo.

nrhatch - July 15, 2013

Yo! He was the Sky Man. Far out. 😎

The “right” theme music sets the stage and creates the “mood lighting.” The theme music on Sherlock (BBC) wows me.

ericjbaker - July 15, 2013

Ooh. I like that show.

nrhatch - July 15, 2013

We just finished watching Season 2 . . . and we’re waiting to see when we can get our hands on Season 3.

2. Bridgesburning Chris King - July 15, 2013

Amazing! Have FB this. TY!

nrhatch - July 15, 2013

Glad you enjoyed, Chris. Thanks for sharing. The Earth is a tiny “tree” in the galactic forest. 😯

3. William D'Andrea - July 15, 2013

From a far enough distance, everything seems insignificant, so why should we care? However when we stand up close enough to look each other in the face, and speak to each other quietly, or just read each other’s e-mail messages, we have the right perspective.

Edited ~ to read the rest of William’s comment, visit Psalm 8:3 – 8:9.

nrhatch - July 15, 2013

I edited your comment, William. I don’t mind the occasional short quote from the bible, but I’m not interested in turning this into a religious blog . . . with all the attendant hypocrisy that comes with that.

Psalm 8:3 – 8:9 touts Creationism, an archaic notion in light of Darwin’s work on Evolution.

4. William D'Andrea - July 15, 2013

Okay. This is your blog. You can censor anything you want on it.
I was trying to give a positive argument against the depressing despair expressed by Carl Sagan. Besides, the Theory of Evolution is not infallible; and everything in the universe, from the smallest sub-atomic particle, to the most massive of galaxies, is obviously intelligently designed. You cannot have a “Big Bang” without a “Big Banger”.

nrhatch - July 15, 2013

Perhaps. But the “Big Banger” might not be the christian god referenced in the bible.

I’m guessing She’s Buddhist. :mrgreen:

William D'Andrea - July 16, 2013

Before I send a reply, I’ve decided to do some research. (Oh no! Not that!) I just posted “Debunking Evolution” on google search; and received “About 820,000 results”; so it looks like it’s gonna take a while to check things out, before I send a reply.

nrhatch - July 16, 2013

Have FUN. Just remember to eliminate any posts written by people who: (1) don’t know what they’re talking about; (2) don’t understand what Darwin’s research demonstrates; and/or (3) view the bible as a self-proving document because “the bible tells them so.”

Once you eliminate those 3 (overlapping) groups, you might be able to breeze through the remaining articles by lunchtime. 😛

William D'Andrea - July 18, 2013

Here you go Nancy. Check out: http://www.newgeology.us/presentation32.html‎ in which the Theory of Evolution is thoroughly and scientifically debunked, using only scientific observations. However, this article was apparently written by a college professor, who quotes many other professors, and is at times tedious, heavy going, and hard to pick up. Nevertheless, prepare to be enlightened; if you can stay awake.

I’ve also decided to give equal opportunity to the opposition. I’ve posted “Debunking Creationism” on google search; and received “about 153,000 results”. I’ll search further, for another lengthy article by some professor, (No! Not that again!) and see what his arguements are.

I might then write an in-depth analysis, which would be a very differenty type of writing from what I’ve been doing up ’til now, but if nothing else, it might help me overcome my unending writers’ block.

nrhatch - July 18, 2013

The link doesn’t work . . . maybe the article is missing the “missing link.” 😉

William D'Andrea - July 19, 2013

I’ve checked it out. Go to: http://www.newgeology.us/presentation32.html
It worked for me.

nrhatch - July 19, 2013

The link worked. I scanned the article and confess that much of it went over my head. I chuckled at the end quote:

Darwin is liked by evolutionists because he liberated science from the straitjacket of observation and opened the door to storytellers. This gave professional evolutionists job security so they can wander through biology labs as if they belong there.

— David Coppedge

William D'Andrea - July 19, 2013

Thank you again Nancy. I’ve found an article presenting the opposing view. I might be able to post something about it tomorrow morning.

nrhatch - July 19, 2013

Thanks. It would be interesting to read it as well.

William D'Andrea - July 20, 2013

Here we go again Nancy! http://www.actionbioscience.org/evolution/nhmag.html
This time it’s an article from Natural History magazine, containing a debate between advocates for and against Intelligent design. Unfortunately, its also very heavy going, even more so than the first article I sent you.

nrhatch - July 20, 2013

Fantastic find, William. I haven’t read it all . . . but I will. I love the back a forth dialogue and debate. Thanks!

William D'Andrea - July 22, 2013

Thank you Nancy. I’m also glad we’re having this dialogue, without getting into arguments. We’re letting the professors do the debating, while the two of us might be learning things.

I’m also glad I’m not taking any college courses conducted by these professors, regardless of whether I agree with them or not. This “scholarly” writing is so dull and boring! If this is the type of writing that students must study; and if the professors lecture in the same way that they write, I now understand why students engage in drinking binges on the weekends.

nrhatch - July 22, 2013

Hahaha! Most of my college and law school professors had engaging personalities in the classroom but reading their writing often gave me an ACK! attack. :mrgreen:

Exchanging ideas when we remain open to possibilities is much better than “arguing about nothing.” Thanks for your great shares.

William D'Andrea - July 23, 2013

I’m also getting a lot out of this discussion and debate. We’ve both learned some things; as has anyone else here on your blog, who might have clicked on to the posted articles.

I’m wondering if you’d like to continue doing this; have in-depth discussions concerning things about which we might disagree. As long as they’re conducted in a respectful way, the discussions could be very constructive and give us more things to think about, than we’d expected.

nrhatch - July 23, 2013

To be honest, no. I didn’t set up SLTW to debate the issues of the day and don’t really want to switch to that type of focus.

As an occasional spontaneous thing, it’s fine. But I had more than enough debate during the 16 years I spent in the legal arena. Thanks for the thought, though.

If debate is what you’re after . . . WEbook provides the perfect forum. Just type “debate” into the search bar and a number of different projects set up for debating will appear. The topics range from Love to Religion to God to Homosexuality to Capital Punishment.

5. Don - July 15, 2013

The scariest thing for me is that there are those who seem to know far toooooo much about the “Big Banger” so much so that he/she/it, or whatever, has become their tame and domesticated pet who supports and promotes all their self-importance, prejudices and preconceptions.

Nothing puts us in our place more than seeing that little speck in the cosmos. I’m afraid there are religious perspectives that abhor mystery because ultimately you can’t manipulate with mystery. Sorry Nancy, but I just had to say this. I promise I won’t say anything more.

nrhatch - July 15, 2013

No apologies necessary, Don. That’s exactly why this blog is called Spirit Lights The Way, rather than God Lights The Way.

God is not, as some believe, a “pet rock” to be manipulated to support our narrow self-righteous view of the world whenever we get into squabbles on the playground.

Here’s to embracing the Mystery and knowing that it is OK not to have all the answers.

Don - July 15, 2013

yeh yeh

6. Tom Merriman - July 15, 2013

Seeing the Earth like that certainly puts things into perspective, Nancy. We aren’t as big as we think we are for one…

nrhatch - July 15, 2013

I love Sagan’s comments, especially:

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light.

Some might find that thought depressing, especially if they’ve been led to believe that humans have dominion over “all creation.” I find it liberating ~ instead of being “head custodian” of “everything,” we’re only “in charge” of a tiny speck of dust.

Aah . . . that’s better! 😎

7. suzicate - July 15, 2013

Amazing how small we are in the big scheme of things yet we are each an integral piece of the pale blue dot!

nrhatch - July 15, 2013

Given the size of that tiny dot, it’s amazing how worked up we get about trivial concerns . . . like whether we have double sinks in the master bath, or granite countertops in the kitchen. 😆

8. Three Well Beings - July 16, 2013

I love the photo, Nancy. I’ve never seen that before. It really does make you think and sit with a bit of awe! I never read Contact, but it is one of my favorite movies. I have seen it half a dozen times and there’s just something about it I find very moving. It’s all perspective sometimes, isn’t it? We aren’t the center of the universe–we just think we are! 🙂

nrhatch - July 16, 2013

“Contact” is fascinating. So is “Another Earth” ~ a bit of a parallel universe.

When we shift our perspective, even a bit, we see things in a whole new light. Life is less “black and white” and has far more shades of gradients.

9. sufilight - July 16, 2013

I have never seen this photo before or seen the movie. Will be checking out my library to see if they have it. This post definitely puts things in perspective. I felt a little sadness as well as awe regarding the mystery of the universe.

nrhatch - July 16, 2013

We are B~I~G fish in this small pond . . . but Earth is a tiny drop in the bucket when we expand our sights to see the sea.

Hope you find some interesting views and reads at the library.

10. shreejacob - July 16, 2013

It does Nancy…the thing is we humans as a race tend to easily forget..or push the unpleasantness of it back into the closet 😉

nrhatch - July 16, 2013

A photo like that is a real “Ego Deflator.” :mrgreen:

What we do, what we have, and what people think of us is far less important than who we are while we are here. Be Here Now.

11. diannegray - July 16, 2013

I just love Sagan. Thinking about that dot puts a lot of things (particularly the minor stupid problems) into perspective.

I liked the way you responded to William – sheesh, the thing that really gets me about religion is how they think they’re so RIGHT and no one else should have an opinion…

nrhatch - July 16, 2013

Sagan’s thoughts are such a great reminder about how trivial our Ego concerns really are in the grand scheme of things.

And, thanks! Although William knows the posting guidelines here on SLTW, he tries to “fly under the radar” on occasion. When he does, I edit his comments. Since I find biblical passages neither persuasive nor comforting, I don’t care to have them cluttering up the comment threads. In this case, I included a reference to the Psalm for anyone who wanted to read it.

I don’t view that as “censorship” since folks who desire to engage in religious rhetoric and debate are free to wander down the cyber corridor to find a more appropriate venue and appreciative audience. :mrgreen:

diannegray - July 16, 2013

Totally agree 😀

12. Our Obsession With Bigness | Candid Impressions - July 17, 2013

[…] read a great post on one of my favourite blogs “Spirit Lights the Way” about Voyager 1′s images of […]

nrhatch - July 17, 2013

Wise words, Don. That photo of the Costa Concordia is a poster child for Robbie Burns’ poem:

The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men,
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

We are such silly rabbits! Sheila’s got a point . . . ET is probably watching Reality TV and laughing out loud at our antics. 😆

13. Colonialist - July 18, 2013

It must have taken a lot of work to pick the right fraction of a blip …

nrhatch - July 18, 2013

Not an editing job for the faint of heart. 😉

14. bluebee - July 19, 2013

Whenever I’m dealing with a particularly challenging day, I think of Sagan’s words in The Pale Blu Dot and I feel so much better. It really does put things in perspective, particularly when one is negotiating the sociopathy that soaks the fabric of the corporate world.

nrhatch - July 19, 2013

Yes! Yesterday I asked someone a question to get them to clarify what they’d said (because it made no sense). They launched into argument mode, prefacing their comments with:

“You’re NOT going to win this argument.”

I smiled and said, “Of course not. How could I WIN an argument when all I did was voice a question?”

Shut ’em right up! :mrgreen:

15. viviankirkfield - July 20, 2013

Great post, Nancy! It helps put things in perspective, especially if we are in the middle of a stressful or difficult situation. And one more reason to say ‘I love you’ to those we love…and move forward on doing the things we want to accomplish in our lives.:)

nrhatch - July 20, 2013

Yes! We can get so bogged down in the mire of things that don’t matter that we are blind to things that do!

Every time I think of you moving to live closer to your daughter and grandson, I smile. 😀

viviankirkfield - July 21, 2013

I’m smiling as well – I’m surprised you can’t see the sparkle in my eyes and the gleam of my teeth from my mile-wide smile!!!! 🙂

nrhatch - July 21, 2013

No wonder! Here’s to a life overflowing with SPARKLE!

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